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The Troth 

about the 

Barcelona Events 



By LAMBDA 



Introduction by 

BERTRAM D. WOLFI 



WORKERS AGE PUBLISHERS 

131 West 33 St., 
5c New York, N. Y. 



Library 
University of Texas 
Austin 



Introduction 

THE proletariat of Barcelona is the backbone 
of the Spanish Revolution. It was they who 
saved Spain from fascism in July of last year. 
While the Republican Government vacillated and 
temporized for three days (July 17, 18, 19), re- 
fused to dissolve the army in rebellion, refused to 
call upon the soldiers to disobey their officers, re- 
fused to arm the proletariat, and tried to negotiate 
an "honorable" surrender to the fascist rebellion, 
it was the Barcelona proletariat, armed only with 
pistols, rifles taken from sporting goods stores, and 
stones and clubs and following the lead of syn- 
dicalists, anarchists and POUMists, who stormed 
the Barcelona barracks. Thereby they changed the 
history of Spain, perhaps the history of our times. 

The heroic "storming of the heavens" by the 
Barcelona workers on July 19, inspired the Madrid 
proletariat to take the Montana Barracks on July 
20. The entire army had revolted but the working 
class began to build a new workers' army. The 
Republican, People's Front Government had 
betrayed them, but they went into battle on their 
own account. But now, reformism in Madrid and 
anarcho-syndicalism in Barcelona prevented them 
from consolidating their victory by the taking over 
of power. The syndicalists, burdened by the weight 
of anarchist prejudices, did not know how to take 
power. The Communist Party, blinded by the anti- 

3 : 81491.1 



communist theory of the People's Front, opposed 
the retention of power, insisted upon the rehabilita- 
tion of the discredited, vacillating, treacherous 
bourgeois republicans, fought against the socializa- 
tion of industry (even capitalist nations take over 
industry for war purposes), opposed the freeing of 
the Moors which would have smashed Franco at 
the start, opposed the nationalization of the land 
which would have destroyed the social roots of 
fascism, insisted on the retention of unreliable 
bourgeois generals, who later betrayed strongholds 
like Malaga, opposed the development of a genuine 
workers' army, insisted upon the preservation of 
capitalism with its fascist sympathies ("The Fifth 
Column"), and, by the inevitable logic of their 
errors, ended up by assuming an armed offensive 
against the revolutionary workers and their organ- 
izations on May 3, 1937. 

Step by step bourgeois reaction has lifted its 
head again. It supports and swells the ranks of the 
official Communist Party, and hides behind it as 
once German capitalism hid behind Scheidemann 
and Noske. It enjoys secret support from France 
and England against its own working class. It 
counts on conservative elements within the Spanish 
Socialist Party. Its spokesmen make dark and 
mysterious hints about a possible truce or com- 
promise. Its latest government, the Negrin Cabinet, 
freed at last of the U.G.T. and C.N.T., the two 
powerful trade union centers, proposes openly the 
following program: 

"1. Restoring freedom of worship in all 
churches . . . 

"2. Return all business to its owners with the 



4 



exception of certain large industries important for 
war purposes." 

It closes the headquarters of the revolutionary 
party, the POUM, suppresses POUM, Anarchist 
and Syndicalist papers, but would reopen the 
Churches, centers of counter-revolutionary propa- 
ganda and even fortified machine gun nests of 
reaction! 

Without even waiting for the end of the war, 
so bitter is its enmity to socialism, it would dis- 
lodge the workers organizations from industry, and 
disorganize such war necessities as the food indus- 
try by returning it to private hands! 

With Bilbao in danger it does not hesitate to 
organize shock troops for civil war (the Cara- 
bineros) and unleash attacks upon the workers 
organizations behind the lines! It is more afraid of 
its own proletariat in arms than it is of its former 
instruments of power, the fascist generals! Does it 
need an armed proletariat in order to be saved 
from fascism? Then it would rather not be saved 
from fascism! It knows what the Communist Party 
has forgotten: that fascism and bourgeois demo- 
cracy are but two forms of capitalism, but the 
proletariat in arms, the proletariat in power, 
spells the end of capitalism. Therefore it runs the 
risk of losing the war by attempting to disarm the 
proletariat of Barcelona that saved Spain from 
fascism. It drives Largo Caballero out of office as 
too responsive to the will of the trade unions. It 
tries to outlaw the revolutionary party of the prole- 
tariat, the POUM. It drives the trade unions out 
of the Government. It seeks to crush all obstacles 
in the way of dark compromise and open reaction. 



5 



With heads bowed in shame we are forced to re- 
cognize that the Communist Party of Spain carried 
on the propaganda campaign paving the way for 
reaction. It branded the POUM as Trotskyite 
though Trotsky attacks the POUM and the 
POUM Trotsky, and though the POUM has ex- 
pelled its handful of Trotskyites. Ten thousand 
POUMists are fighting at the front out of a party 
of 50,000, but the POUMists are "agents of 
Franco." And the heroic workers of Barcelona 
who saved Spain from Franco, when they resist 
disarmament, are also "agents of Franco." Things 
have come to such a pass that the writings of a 
Cannes, a Marion or a Koltzev outdo those of 
bourgeois journalists in pen prostitution and hatred 
and slander of the leaders of the Spanish prole- 
tarian revolution. 

The revolutionary workers of America, unable 
to trust the official Communist, or bourgeois press, 
have waited anxiously for reliable news on the 
May Days in Barcelona. The present report by 
Comrade Lambda, first published in the columns 
of the Workers Age, is the news we have been 
waiting for. It is more than reporting; it is a 
masterpiece of Marxist historical analysis. Despite 
its brevity, despite the problems of censorship, 
distance and distortion of news, Lambda has suc- 
ceeded in establishing in a single dispatch, the class 
forces involved, the role of parties and organiza- 
tions and the underlying historic import of the 
May struggles in Catalonia. He has redeemed the 
honor of Marxist journalism besmirched by of- 
ficial communist newspapers, and has renewed the 
great tradition set by Marx and Engels in the re- 



6 



porting of the French and German revolutions of 
1848. The Workers Age is proud of the fact that 
this modern classic first appeared within its pages, 
proud also of being a reliable source of informa- 
tion on the most important events taking place in 
the world today, the events that, taken together, 
comprise the Proletarian Revolution in Spain. 

— Bertram D. Wolfe 



7 



The Truth About the 
Barcelona Events 

By LAMBDA 

May 19, 1937. 
I. About the May Struggles In Catalonia 

WHAT was behind the fighting which took 
place in Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia 
during the first week of May, is becoming con- 
stantly clearer in the light of additional reports and 
the actions of the various parties and organizations 
involved. The most important facts may be sum- 
marized in a few paragraphs. 

The fighting began on Monday, May 3, with 
the attempt of the PSUC 1 to occupy the telephone 
exchange building in Barcelona, until then under 
the control of the CNT. 2 This action was 
based on a far-reaching and carefully constructed 
plan. The telephone exchange buildings at Lerida, 
Gerona, Taragona, etc., were supposed to be simul- 
taneously occupied and taken over. That all this 
was of the nature of provocation and conspiracy 

1 PSUC — United Socialist Party of Catalonia, the Com- 
intern party of that country. 

2 CNT — National Confederation of Labor, the anarcho- 
syndicalist trade union federation. 

FAI — Iberian Anarchist Federation. 



8 



becomes perfectly obvious when it is remembered 
that the plan of the Catalonian government had 
been kept a dead secret — that is to say, Companys 
probably knew all about it but the plan was most 
assuredly kept secret from the CNT-FAI mem- 
bers of the government. Those who instigated the 
whole affair and then took action were the PSUC 
and the Communist Party of Spain and upon them 
falls the entire responsibility. 

The revolutionary workers of Barcelona and 
the rest of Catalonia answered spontaneously with 
a general strike, erecting barricades and disarming 
the government troops. By Wednesday, the CNT- 
FAI were the unquestioned masters of the situation 
in Barcelona as well as the rest of Catalonia. A 
change in the situation occurred, however, because 
the leadership of the CNT and the FAI did not 
dare to carry through their victory by taking power 
into their hands. On Wednesday, the CNT and 
the FAI fell in with a strategic manouver of the 
PSUC and the Esquerra, 3 intended as a ruse to 
assure the latter the upper hand. The CNT and 
the FAI ordered their members to cease armed 
struggle and bade them to return to work. Im- 
mediately thereafter, however, the well-armed 
formations of the PSUC renewed their attack. 
From Valencia, 5,000 Assault Guards as well as 
several warships were sent to Barcelona. With their 
aid, the disarming of the revolutionary workers 
was carried out, a feat which could never have 
been accomplished in an open fight. Countless 
arrests and assassinations of anarchists, syndicalists 



3 Esquerra — a bourgeois liberal party of Catalonia. 

9 



and POUMists 4 were carried out at once. The 
editorial staff of "La Batalla" central organ of the 
POUM, was arrested. "La Batalla" itself was put 
under strictest preliminary censorship. The PSUG 
and the CP of Spain opened a fiendish drive to 
outlaw and dissolve the POUM. The Comintern 
press helped out very loudly. 

Statements issued by Companys, President of 
Catalonia, reveal the fact that his appeals for as- 
sistance fell on deaf ears in Valencia until he ceded 
the Valencia government the right to take over all 
police functions as well as the high command 
of the Catalonian troops at the front — a piece 
of extortion aimed at the extinction of Catalonian 
autonomy. The leadership of the CNT-FAI re- 
ports that it sent a number of trustworthy persons 
to the GNT batallions on the Aragon front 
to persuade the soldiers not to leave the front 
for the purpose of intervening in the fighting 
at Barcelona. These emissaries prevailed and the 
soldiers remained at the front. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, May 5 and 6, a 
number of French and English warships appeared 
in the port of Barcelona in support of the counter- 
revolutionary provocation ; evidently they had been 
summoned by Companys and Valencia. With this, 
the international connections of the counter-revolu- 
tionary coup became clearly established. 



4 POUM — Workers Party of Marxist Unity, the inde- 
pendent communist party of Catalonia and Spain, which, 
unlike the official communist party, is following a really 
communist policy in the Spanish civil war. 



10 



II. The Manifesto Issued by the CNT, the 
FAI and the Libertarian Youth of Catalonia 

During the May events, there became clearly ap- 
parent for the first time the split between the 
masses of the anarcho-syndicalist workers who^ 
weapon in hand, were defending their revolution- 
ary gains, and certain leaders of the CNT and FAI, 
above all, the CNT cabinet ministers in the 
Valencia government and the Generalidad. These 
individuals proved themselves partly corrupt with 
opportunism and partly lacking in clarity of aim 
and determination. 

After the compromise manouver had brought 
defeat to the revolutionary workers, there followed 
a violent reaction among the anarcho-syndicalist 
workers. This reaction is reflected in the manifesto 
of the leadership of the CNT, the FAI and the 
Libertarian Youth of Catalonia, published in the 
May 12 issue of the "Solidaridad O brer a" 

This manifesto openly describes the provocation 
during the first days in May as "a conspiracy." 
This conspiracy — that is, the attack upon the tele- 
phone exchange building — produced a spontaneous 
protest on the part of workers. The attack upon 
the telephone exchange building was personally 
led by the PSUC official, Salas, who was under 
written orders from Aiguade, orders of which 
the Council of the Generalidad had no knowledge 
whatsoever. This coup was to be the starting point 
of a "far-reaching plan of action with unqualified 
aims." 

The proclamation points out that this action 
had been prepared carefully over a long period of 



11 



time and that part of these preparations had been 
to demoralize the hinterland and to 'undermine 
confidence in the committees and the leadership 
of the CNT. The proclamation goes on to point 
out the numerous assassinations of CNT members 
by the PSUG and the police troops — 12 in San 
Andres, 15 in Taragona, the assassination of the 
Italian anarchist Berneri, etc. Another aim of the 
provocation was to bring about foreign interven- 
tion, "the advance-troops of which were repre- 
sented by the six French and English war vessels 
that appeared on Wednesday and Thursday of the 
past week in the port of Barcelona." The proclama- 
tion declares that, in view of the numerous arrests 
and individual assassinations perpetrated by their 
enemies, the CNT and the FAI would find a way 
for proper retribution, should such practices not 
cease at once. 

The proclamation appeals to the members of the 
UGT 5 in the following words: 

"Remember that your place is on the 
side of your class comrades and not in al- 
liance with the bourgeoisie, either big or 
little, which is defending its own interests 
and is fighting with every means and 
weapon available to throttle the Spanish 
revolution. . . . Stand fast against all pro- 
vocations and against all those perpetra- 
ting such provocations! Work together 
with us in our common task of exposing 
the guilty ones in this, the biggest crime 
in history. Let us unite against the com- 



5 UGT — General Union of Workers, the trade union 
federation in which socialists and communists are active. 



12 



mon enemy, the enemy within and without, 
the enemy at the front and at home, the 
enemy who is plotting against us in every 
hole and corner of Spanish politics and in 
every dark corridor of the government of- 
fices of Europe. . . . Long live the revolu- 
tionary alliance of the proletariat! Down 
with the counter-revolution ! Long live the 
unity of the CNT and the UGT, the only 
safeguard for victory in the war and in 
the revolution!" 

The slogan of the revolutionary alliance of the 
proletariat is equivalent to the slogan issued by the 
POUM for a revolutionary workers front. The 
proclamation of the CNT reveals that the anarcho- 
syndicalist workers have begun to learn the lesson 
of the recent events and that they are determined 
to continue the fight for the revolution. 

III. The Position of the POUM on the 

May Battles 

The attitude of the POUM on the May battles 
is formulated in the resolution adopted by the 
Enlarged Central Committee of the party after 
the May events, published on May 13 in "La 
Batalla" 

"1. The unceasing provocations of the 
counter-revolution, embodied in the re- 
formist parties of the PSUC and the petty 
bourgeoisie — provocations aimed at liqui- 
dating in the spheres of economy, war 
and the public order, the revolutionary 
gains won by the workers, weapon in 
hand, on July 19, provocations which 
reached their climax on May 3 with the 

is 814911 



attempt to storm the telephone exchange 
building— these provocations produced the 
armed protest of the proletariat. 

"2. The political position of the POUM 
could be none other than active solidarity 
with the workers who spontaneously 
declared a general strike, erected bar- 
ricades in the streets of Barcelona and 
took it upon themselves to defend with 
exemplary heroism the endangered con- 
quests of the revolution. 

"3. Since the workers fighting in the 
streets lacked concrete aims as well as re- 
sponsible leadership, the POUM had no 
other alternative but to organize a stra- 
tegic retreat by convincing the working 
class to avoid all desperate action that 
might have resulted in a putsch, inevitably 
leading to the complete extermination of 
the most advanced sections of the prole- 
tariat. 

"4. The experience of the May strug- 
gles has clearly shown that the only solu- 
tion lies in the seizure of power by the 
working class and that it is therefore ab- 
solutely necessary for the revolutionary 
activity of the working masses to be co- 
ordinated thru the formation of a revolu- 
tionary workers front uniting all organ- 
izations ready to fight for the complete 
annihilation of fascism. This can be ac- 
complished only thru military victory at 
the front and the victory of the revolution 
at home. 

"The Central Committee of the POUM 
is of the opinion that the policy pursued 
by the party has been completely justified ; 



14 



it fully endorses the line of the Executive 
Committee, convinced that the party has 
defended the interests of the revolution 
and of the broad working masses." 

IV. The Reorganization of the 
Valencia Government 

The reorganization of the Valencia government 
was instigated by the official Communist Party, 
whose ministers resigned with the demand that the 
measures against the revolutionary workers of 
Catalonia be intensified and carried thru to the 
end, as well as by the French and English gov- 
ernments which made their voice heard in the very 
cabinet thru the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Al- 
varez del Vayo. 

The main objectives of this move were the elimi- 
nation of Caballero and thus of the left socialists 
from the Cabinet, the exclusion of the CNT-FAI, 
the strengthening of bourgeois republican in- 
fluence, the emancipation of the government from 
the control of working class organizations, the 
centralization of military power in a single hand,, 
and the liquidation of the revolutionary achieve- 
ments of the July days in Catalonia and the rest 
of Spain. The real nature of this move is best il- 
lustrated by a number of facts. 

In its issue of May 11, the paper "Ade!a?ite" 
the organ of the UGT and of Largo Caballero 
personally, describes the demands raised by the 
CP of Spain and the Comintern in the following 
terms : 

"If the Caballero government were to 
apply the measures of suppression to 

15 



which the Spanish section of the Commu- 
nist International is trying to incite it, 
then it would come close to a govern- 
ment of Gil Robles or Lerroux; it would 
destroy the unity of the working class 
and expose us to the danger of losing the 
war and shipwrecking the revolution. . . . 
A government composed in its majority of 
people from the labor movement cannot 
make use of methods that are reserved for 
reactionary and fascist-like governments." 

The article expressly rejects responsibility for 
the events in Catalonia and throws the responsi- 
bility upon those who provoked the situation. 

The role that the French and English govern- 
ments played in the Gatalonian events and the 
aims pursued by these governments in the situ- 
ation and in the reorganization of the Valencia 
government, are exposed with welcome clarity in 
a semi-official editorial in the "Temps" of May 17. 
This article was written after the governmental 
crisis in Barcelona had broken out into the open 
but before it had been solved; it was, therefore, 
written with a view to influencing the solution of 
the crisis in the direction desired by the People's 
Front government of France. The editorial goes 
on to say: 

"The struggle therefore proceeds in 
Valencia, as it went on in Barcelona, be- 
tween the communist influence, allied with 
the socialists and republicans, and the 
anarcho-syndicalists, whom it is a question 
of destroying and removing from the gov- 
ernment. . . . Either Mr. Largo Caballero 
will simply rebuild his cabinet on the same 



16 



foundations, that is, from the represen- 
tatives of all of the People's Front parties 
and the socialist and anarcho-syndicalist 
labor organizations or he will attempt to 
free the republican government from the 
control of the extremists by building up a 
combination basing itself entirely on the 
political parties of the People's Front. If 
this latter formula is applied, it will signify 
an important development; in fact, it will 
constitute a decisive reaction against the 
so-called proletarian socialist revolution. 
The anarchists and the syndicalists have 
never hidden the fact that the defense of 
the republican regime and the democratic 
order is their least concern and that what 
they are above all trying to accomplish on 
the basis of the present civil war is the 
complete social revolution for the sole 
benefit of the proletariat. The republican 
government of Valencia has reached the 
point where it must decide. It can no 
longer remain in the state of ambiguity in 
which it has hitherto lived. It must choose 
between democracy and proletarian dicta- 
torship, between order and anarchy." 

Corresponding to these directives of the French 
and English bourgeoisie, directives supported by 
the Spanish section of the Communist Interna- 
tional, the republican parties and the right wing 
of the Social-Democracy, a reorganization in the 
Valencia government has taken place. Caballero 
has been ousted. In the government the right wing 
only of Social-Democracy is represented through 
Premier Negrin, the new War Minister Prieto and 
the Minister of the Interior. The Foreign Ministry 



17 



was handed over to the left republican, Giral, the 
chairman of the left republican party, the man 
who was premier until the fall of I run and who 
was removed from the government precisely be- 
cause of the fall of Irun. Now this political corpse 
has been resurrected. . . . 

The GNT and the FAI have had their repre- 
sentatives ousted from the government, after they 
were offered half of their previous representation. 
The government now consists of three socialists, two 
official communists and four of the bourgeois par- 
ties. In reality, this government is dominated by 
bourgeois republican influence since the right wing 
socialists, such as Prieto, must be regarded as bour- 
geois republicans. The UGT is officially not re- 
presented in the new government. 

The new government was promptly hailed with 
great joy by the official press of England and 
France. From these quarters its tasks were openly 
prescribed for it. Thus the "Temps" writes in its 
editorial of May 18: 

"But it is noteworthy that he (Azana) 
yesterday assembled for the purposes of 
joint consultation the president of the 
Cortes, Mr. Martinez Barrio ; the head of 
the Republican Union, the former premier 
Giral; the leader of the republican lefts; 
the leader of the moderate socialists, In- 
dalecio Prieto ; Mr. Ramon Lamoneda ; the 
representative of the leadership of the SP ; 
and Mr. Jose Diaz, the general secretary 
of the CP. It would be too early to con- 
clude that the orientation in Valencia is 
toward a more moderate government de- 
termined to free itself finally from the con<- 

18 



trol of anarcho-syndicalists. But this is an 
attempt which, in the end, will have to be 
made, no matter what the resistance of 
the extremists may be, if the collapse of 
the republican state power sooner or later 
Is to be avoided." 

From these words, the essence and aims of the 
new Valencia government emerge clearly. It is 
supposed to clean up the forces fighting for prole- 
tarian revolution, to disarm them, to destroy and 
annihilate them. It is supposed to create a firm 
basis, from a military and police standpoint, for 
a bourgeois restoration. These are the objectives 
but, in reality, the perspectives of such a govern- 
ment go far beyond what these people themselves 
understand or desire today. If this government 
continues to pursue its aims consistently, it must 
in the end undermine the foundations of its own 
existence, particularly, of the socialist and com- 
munist parties. For, in order to destroy the revolu- 
tionary elements of the working class in Catalonia 
and the rest of Spain, it will have to base itself 
more and more upon the powers of reaction and to 
apply constantly more reactionary measures — as is 
clearly pointed out in the declaration of Cabal- 
lero's paper cited above. It is enough to refer to 
the example of German Social-Democracy, to 
Ebert-Scheidemann-Noske, who, in order to smash 
the Spartacus League, had to rely on the military 
and White Guardist organizations. It is clear, fur- 
thermore, that were this government to succeed 
in realizing its objectives, the prerequisites for a 
compromise with the military-fascist insurgents 
would be created — something towards which the 



19 



English and French governments have been 
working quite openly. This is a road that can 
end only in the collapse of the bourgeois-demo- 
cratic republic — in the defeat of the struggle 
against the military-fascists at the front. 

But there is by no means any guarantee that the 
new government and the forces behind it will suc- 
ceed in realizing their objectives. The counter- 
current in the Spanish working class has already 
begun; this can be seen from the appeals of the 
CNT-FAI as well as from the attitude of the UGT 
leadership. To assure the victory of the forces of 
proletarian revolution it is absolutely necessary to 
create a firm alliance of all forces working in this 
direction and to develop a really communist lead- 
ership supported by the majority of the Spanish 
working class. For such a leadership we must turn 
in the first place to the POUM but also to certain 
elements among the anarcho-syndicalists and the 
SP lefts. 

It is of the greatest significance that the five 
thousand men of the Assault Guards sent by 
Valencia to Barcelona to "restore order," have 
fallen under the influence of the revolutionary sen- 
timent of the Gatalonian workers, that the POUM 
is gaining in popularity among the workers and 
that the virtual abolition of Gatalonian autonomy 
has created bad blood even amongst certain petty 
bourgeois elements. As a whole, however, it must 
be said that the development of a revolutionary 
front fighting in the direction of proletarian 
power will be a long and difficult process. But it is 
the only road! 



20 



The POUM's Program 
For the Present Crisis 

WE present below, as the best expression of a 
genuinely revolutionary course for Spain, 
the thirteen-point "program for the crisis" out- 
lined by the POUM. This program appeared in 
the April 21, 1937, issue of "The Spanish Revolu- 
tion," English-language bulletin of the POUM, 
and was proposed as the way out of the deep 
political crisis in which Catalonia and all Spain 
found itself. 

■x- * * 

1. Socialization of heavy industry and transport. 

2. Nationalization of banking. 

3. Municipalization of real estate. 

4. Building of an army controlled by the work- 
ing class. 

5. Constitution of a single Interior Security 
Corps, based on the Guard Patrols and the 
Investigation Corps, created by the revolution 
and incorporating the old police organizations 
that have demonstrated their loyalty to the 
working class. 

6. Immediate offensive on the Aragon front. 

7. Reduction of high salaries. 

8. Monopoly of foreign trade. 

9. Creation of a powerful war industry, social- 
ized and rigorously centralized. 

10. Nationalization of the land, insuring the pro- 
duct to those who work it and granting them 
the necessary credits. Collective cultivation of 



21 



large estates and economic aid for those col- 
lective farms created during the course of the 
revolution which have demonstrated their 
vitality. 

11. Implacable fight against monopolists and 
profiteers by means of a rigorous direct con- 
trol of the distribution and price of food-stuffs. 

12. Rapid and efficient organization of aerial and 
naval defense of all our territory. 

13. Convocation of a congress of delegates of 
workers' and peasants' unions and soldiers 
to lay the fundamental bases of the new regime 
and from which would arise a workers' and 
peasants' government — a government which 
would be the most democratic possible, which 
would express unequivocally the will of the 
great majority of the people, and which would 
have complete authority to ensure the new 
revolutionary order. 



22 



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